The financial sleeping giant that could save you money
By taking a fine tooth-comb through your bills you could save money you didn’t know you were even spending.
Junk insurance and financial advice refunds have been slowly picking at your savings, so how do you recognise them and how can you save yourself some cash?
Joel Gibson writes:
About a year ago, I was asked to look into the refunds being paid out by banks and insurance companies that were savaged by the Banking Royal Commission.
I wrote to my own current and former banks and credit card companies and asked them if they’d ever charged me for dodgy junk insurance or financial advice ‘fees for no service’. They said no.
I checked for a couple of family members. Nothing. So I’m afraid to say I wrote it off.
But I was wrong. In the year since, I’ve spent hours researching the size of the problem, seen hundreds of people get refunds of up to $20,000, and I’ve come to see it as a billion-dollar sleeping giant.
Here’s what I’ve learnt.
MILLIONS OF US COULD STILL BE OWED REFUNDS
Australian banks and insurance companies have already given over $1 billion back to Aussies in refunds for junk insurance and financial advice ‘fees for no service’.
But that could be just the beginning. Once Australians wake up to the fact that millions of us could still be owed money, they might have to pay out billions more.
In a joint investigation I’ve conducted with consumer refund service Remediator, we’ve discovered the following data:
- Around 5.6 million ‘add-on insurance’ policies were sold in a 7-year period, which is about 1 in every 4 adults in Australia!
- Only about 600,000 policies have so far have been refunded, leaving around 5 million that might have a claim.
- More than $250 million has been refunded for junk insurance and more than $1 billion has been refunded for ‘fees for no service’.
- Banks have put aside billions of dollars for consumer remediation, but only a fraction has so far been claimed. CBA and NAB, for example, have each allocated over $2 billion to fix the problem and ASIC is monitoring $3.6 billion worth of remediations.
THERE’S MORE AND MORE HELP OUT THERE
If you want to know more about whether you’re entitled to a refund, there are a few ways to go about it and you don’t need to do it all yourself.
Essentially, you’ve got three options:
Option 1: DIY. Contact the bank, credit card issuer or insurance company yourself and ask them for copies of your old statements, then comb over them for evidence of insurance premiums or financial advice fees being deducted.
The insurance products have names such as ‘consumer credit insurance’ and ‘guaranteed asset protection insurance’, but beware that many banks and insurance companies ‘re-branded’ them with their own names, which can make them tricky to spot.
Option 2: Class action. There are Junk Insurance class actions underway against 3 out of 4 big banks already. Another against NAB was settled for $49.5 million.
If you do nothing, you might be taking this option by default. In Australia, the plaintiff in a class action does not require the consent of class members to commence a class action on their behalf, nor do they need to identify individual class members.
This is known as an ‘open’ class action system and is different to the system in other countries with a ‘closed’ system which requires class members to actively ‘sign up’.
If you’re part of a class action, you’ll be bound by the result and you lose your ability to claim direct from the bank or via remediation services.
‘Opting out’ can sometimes result in a bigger, quicker refund, but you generally need to do it before the deadline.
Option 3: Remediation services. This is a new breed of company created since the 2018 Banking Royal Commission to help Australians hunt down their refunds. There are about half a dozen of them so far.
Class actions can take a long time, so remediation services offer a middle way for anyone who wants to maximise their refund and minimise the time it takes, without doing all the work themselves.
If you just want to know more about whether you might be due a refund, you can read a range of new guides I’ve prepared for potential claimants below:
Around 1 in 4 successful claimants didn’t even know they were paying for junk insurance or dodgy financial advice fees before they asked the service to investigate on their behalf. So don’t just assume that none of the money is yours.
Don’t do what I did and just write it off as irrelevant to you, or you might be doing yourself out of thousands of dollars.
Joel Gibson is a money-saving expert, author of KILL BILLS & spokesman for Remediator.
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